Trends in Public Opinion

Public Pulse: Giving and Volunteering

The UNC Charlotte Urban Institute recently conducted a telephone survey of Mecklenburg County residents* to gather their input on quality of life factors, such as the economy, environment, public education, and other social issues.  As broad measures of civic engagement, two questions related to volunteering and charitable giving were also asked of survey respondents.  Specifically, respondents were asked the following questions, “Over the last six months, about how much time have you spent volunteering in the community?” and “Over the last six months, approximately how much money have you given in charitable donations?”

According to the survey findings, nearly three-fourths of Mecklenburg County residents (73.2%) have spent at least one hour volunteering in their community in the last six months.  In particular, 14.7 percent have spent one to five hours, 29.5 percent have spent six to twenty-five hours, and 29 percent have spent over twenty-five hours volunteering.

When asked about charitable giving, an overwhelming majority of Mecklenburg County residents (91%) indicated that they made charitable contributions in the past six months.  In particular, 15 percent donated up to $100, 32.9 percent donated between $100 and $500, and 43.1 percent gave over $500 to charities over the last six months.

A few demographic characteristics were shown to have a positive relationship with both volunteering and charitable giving.  Consistent with previous research, the survey shows that education and income are both positively correlated with volunteering and charitable giving.  Respondents with higher educational attainment and with higher household income are more likely to report higher levels of volunteering and charitable giving when compared to respondents with lower educational attainment and lower household income.  Age was also found to be positively correlated with charitable giving, but no correlation was found when it comes to volunteering.  Other findings from the survey show that respondents who reported being homeowners, being married, and being white are also more likely to report higher levels of volunteering and charitable giving.

What these survey findings suggest is that Mecklenburg County residents have high levels of civic engagement, particularly when it comes to volunteering and charitable giving.  However, as the current survey results suggest, certain segments of the population in Mecklenburg County are more likely to be engaged in volunteerism and charitable giving.  Although the current survey only asks for these activities within the last six months, the Institute plans to ask these same questions on an annual basis to determine trends over time.  As the demographic make-up of the region continues to change, it is of great importance that we continue to monitor trends in giving and volunteering so that organizations can better allocate their resources when promoting civic engagement across various groups.

*This survey was conducted in 2010 between February 15 and March 15.  The sample size was 400 Mecklenburg County residents, randomly selected using a listed-sample, with a margin of error of ±5 percent at the 95 percent confidence level.